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Spending a year with Matthew 25


New online resource is designed for preachers, educators and worship planners

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Preachers, educators and worship planners who want to attend to the three themes of being a Matthew 25 church — building congregational vitality, eradicating systemic poverty and dismantling structural racism — have a new resource beginning with Dec. 1, the start of the new liturgical year, and carrying them through Pentecost on May 31, 2020.

“A Year with Matthew for a Matthew 25 Church,” part of the Matthew 25 Welcome Kit, is available for download by clicking here.

A resource for the second half of the Christian year, Trinity Sunday through Reign of Christ, will be posted when it’s available. Watch for updated content.

The resource, developed by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Theology and Worship, takes advantage of a happy convergence: Matthew’s Gospel is the focus of the Revised Common Lectionary Year A in 2019-20 and the April 2019 launch of the Matthew 25 invitation.

The resource has three primary components:

  • A brief introduction to the Gospel of Matthew and how it functions in the lectionary
  • Theological, pastoral and liturgical guidance for the seasons of the Christian year, with a focus on the three Matthew 25 themes
  • Sermon prompts and music suggestions that highlight Christ’s call to righteousness, justice and reconciliation in Matthew’s Gospel.

“A Year with Matthew for a Matthew 25 Church” also has these resources:

  • Seven ways to read the Gospel of Matthew (reading plans)
  • “Emmanuel: God with Us,” a public reading of the Gospel
  • The Sermon on the Mount (Scripture reading and hymn festival)
  • The 10 Miracles (Scripture reading and hymn festival)
  • Reading Matthew in Daily Prayer (daily lectionary)
  • Index to the Gospel of Matthew (appendix)

Beginning with the first Sunday in December, preachers, congregations and individuals are encouraged to use as much or as little of the resource as they like.

“You are encouraged to select the approaches that seem most appropriate and helpful, and to adapt as needed to suit your context,” it states. “For instance, congregations might choose to host a reading of the Sermon on the Mount, but not the whole Gospel of Matthew. Preachers might decide to use some of the sermon series provided, but not others. Individuals might elect to use the 26-week reading plan for half the year and other options for the remainder.”

Each Sunday comes with a Matthew (or alternate) passage, sermon prompts and featured hymns from the PC(USA)’s 2013 hymnal, “Glory to God.”

The resource has tips for churches putting on special services. The “Emmanuel: God with Us” public reading of Matthew’s Gospel, for example, advises readers not to read from individual scripts, but from the church’s Bible. While it may be more convenient for readers, an individual script “can convey the impression that the Word of God is temporary and disposable. Reading from the church’s book shows that this Word is a treasure we share.”

And while it may be tempting for people in the congregation to follow along in their pew Bibles, “it is preferable that participants not be distracted by the written word during the reading, but that they attend to the Word proclaimed through the voice of the one who is speaking the good news. This is how we came to know the Word of God in Jesus Christ: as the Word made flesh.”

A service on the 10 miracles Jesus performed as recorded in Matthew 8:1 through 9:34 includes questions for reflection following the service: What do these miracle stories reveal about Jesus? How does he relate to others, including the disciples, religious authorities, the crowds and people who have been outsiders and outcasts? What do these stories teach us about following Jesus today?

Questions seek to invite reflection and spark discussion about the Matthew 25 invitation. For example, how does what Jesus has to say about outsiders in Matthew 8:5-13 inform the church’s work dismantling structural racism?

Does the story of Jesus talking to the scribes and the disciples before calming the storm in Matthew 8:18-27 — a dramatic story about fear and lack of faith — have anything to tell us about building congregational vitality?

It’s likely that many of the people who experienced or witnessed the 10 miracles were living in poverty. Why? What difference does Jesus make in their lives, and how? What might this suggest about the church’s work to eradicate systemic poverty?

Learn more here.

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